Sustainable Consumption

Case Study: Good Goverance: Finance industry

John Blewitt

Good governance is important for nation-states, cities, big and small business, NGOs, charities, universities and community groups. It is essential to fairness and justice, which must be key elements of any future sustainable society. Good governance clearly is of paramount importance to our finance organizations whose recent practices have been generally recognized as being in many cases profoundly questionable. These practices, whether they deal directly with green issues or not, are essential in building trust and stability in society and the economy. Barclays Bank has been a financial institution that has received a considerable degree of justified criticism recently and has been fined both in the USA and UK as a result. Its response has been to overhaul and revise its corporate citizenship commitments and governance structures. Its 2013 Citizenship Report states:

During 2013, we developed and piloted a Citizenship Lens, a values based decision-making tool which is being applied alongside other decision-making tools, to help colleagues move beyond legal, regulatory and compliance requirements, to consider broader societal impacts and opportunities in our key business decisions.

In applying this Lens, we will seek to ensure that we are taking into account the interests of our customers, clients, shareholders and communities in the decisions we make every day.

The Lens is designed to serve as a guide in the first stage of the decision-making process in order to help facilitate a discussion about our impact as well as the potential to create sustainable value for wider society – in the short and long term.

The Lens covers the following five high-level questions:

  1. How are we making a profit (directly or indirectly)?
  2. How are we being transparent and clear in our communication and dealings with customers and stakeholders?
  3. How are we creating long-term value?
  4. How are we creating shared value, where win-win occurs to Barclays, the customer and society at large?
  5. Is this the right thing to do?

The Lens is being integrated into our core decision-making processes and governance structures, including new product approval. In 2014, we will launch training for key colleagues involved in areas such as new product development.


Barclays Bank Citizenship Report 2013, available at:

Case Study: New jobs in the eco-efficient economy: Lester Brown's Plan B

John Blewitt

Restructuring the global economy will create not only new industries, but also new jobs—indeed, whole new professions and new specialties within professions. Turning to wind in a big way will require thousands of wind meteorologists to analyze potential wind sites, identifying the best sites for wind farms. The role of wind meteorologists in the new economy will be comparable to that of petroleum geologists in the old economy.

There is a growing demand for environmental architects who can design buildings that are energy- and materials-efficient and that maximize natural heating, cooling, and lighting. In a future of water scarcity, watershed hydrologists will be needed to study the local hydrological cycle, including the movement of underground water, and to determine the sustainable yield of aquifers. They will be at the center of watershed management regimes.

As the world shifts from a throwaway economy, engineers will be needed to design products that can be recycled—from cars to computers. Once products are designed to be disassembled quickly and easily into component parts and materials, comprehensive recycling is relatively easy. These engineers will be responsible for closing the materials loop, converting the linear flow-through (throwaway) economy into a recycling economy.

In countries with a wealth of geothermal energy, it will be up to geothermal geologists to locate the best sites either for power plants or for tapping this underground energy directly to heat buildings. Retraining petroleum geologists to master geothermal technologies is one way of satisfying the likely surge in demand for geothermal geologists.

Source: Brown (2006: 246)


Brown, L.R. (2006) Plan B 2.0: rescuing a planet under stress and a civilization in trouble. New York, Norton.

Group Activities

Click to download.

  1. Deglamourising consumption

    Submitted by: Blanche Higgins, RMIT University, Australia

    Activity description

    Select several images related to consumption and consumerism for the exercise below. They could include images of plastic waste or other forms of pollution in streams, oceans or natural settings; images of animal cruelty; images related to human obesity; beautiful images of unspoilt nature.

    Activity steps

    1. Discuss which images evoke the strongest responses in each of you and suggest why they do so.
    2. As a group, decide which image or combination of images is likely to be most effective in getting people to think about the environmental, social and personal costs of hyperconsumption.
    3. Come up with some slogans that could enhance the impact of your selected image.

Recommended Routledge Books

Supplementary Reading




Free Journal Articles

Valerie Nelson & Tanya Stathers, ‘Fixing women or fixing the world? ‘Smart economics’, efficiency approaches, and gender equality in development’
Alex Y. Lo & Michael Howes, ‘Powered by the state or finance? The organization of China’s carbon markets’
Tim Jackson, ‘Where is the “wellbeing dividend”?: Nature, structure and consumption inequalities’
Hargreaves, Tom, Michael Nye and Jacquelin Burgess, 2008, ‘Social experiments in sustainable consumption: an evidence-based approach with potential for engaging low-income communities’,
Parker, Gavin, ‘The role of consumer-citizens in environmental protest in the 1990s’
Rees, William E., ‘Human nature, eco-footprints and environmental injustice’

Video Links

  1. The Story of Stuff  

    Duration: 21:18

    Presented by Annie Leonard with animations, this YouTube clip became a global phenomenon, with a host of sequels and imitations being released.

  2. The Story of Bottled Water

    Duration: 8:05

    A sequel to The Story of Stuff, this clip also features Annie Leonard talking, this time about the massive rise in the consumption of bottled water and what people can do about it.

  3. The Story of Electronics  

    Duration: 7:43

    A sequel to The Story of Stuff, this clip also features Annie Leonard, talking this time about how many components of our electronic devices are ‘designed for the dump’.

  4. The Story of Solutions  

    Duration: 9:06

    Following the extraordinary success of The Story of Stuff and its sequels, this clip features Annie Leonard suggesting that the kind of ingenuity that went into the creation of smart phones can also help us overcome wasteful consumption.

  5. The Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel

    Duration: 4:58

    In this short clip, the inventor of the Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel, discusses its importance almost 10 years after it was first released.

  6. A Guide to Happiness, Part 2: Epicurus on Happiness\

    Duration: 28:59

    This YouTube video is the second chapter of the documentary version of Alain de Botton’s book Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness. It provides a good introduction to Epicurean ideas on the examined life, consumerism/materialism and how to achieve real happiness.

  7. The Policy Implications of Happiness

    Duration: 7:01

    A television interview with Carol Graham about her book The Pursuit of Happiness.

  8. The Economics of Happiness: Official trailer

    Duration 3:24

    The trailer produced by the makers of the 2011 documentary film. Details about how to access the full 66-minute film can be found at the official film website,

  9. Helena Norberg-Hodge on the Thom Hatmann Show

    Duration: 6:54

    Helena Norberg-Hodge talks about her documentary film The Economics of Happiness on a US television show in 2012.

  10. Status Anxiety,Alain De Botton

    Duration: 24:00

    This YouTube video is the second part (of 5) of Alain de Botton’s documentary Status Anxiety. It focuses on the psychological implications of human consumption.

  11. I, Pencil

    Duration: 6:32

    This popular 2012 video examines the components that go into the making of an apparently simple graphite pencil. This is a very well made video about global supply chains, which also looks at the history of a taken-for-granted product.

  12. What the Economic Crisis Really Means; and what we can do about it

    Duration: 12:25

    This video provides a great introduction to arguments around limits to growth and the resultant criticisms of endless economic growth. While it looks at the causes of the 2008‒09 Global Financial Crisis, it goes on to examine the link between economic growth and cheap energy, discussed in Chapter 5.  It is also featured on the Doing It Ourselves website: (

  13. An economic reality check, Ted talk by Tim Jackson

    Duration: 20.19

Blogs and Websites

  • This is the website of the international association for economists working in the area of environment and natural resources. The association was established in 1979, before environmental economics became a distinct field of economic thought

    Association of Environmental and Resource Economics

  • ISEE is a member-driven association with no particular affiliations. It supports an active network of national and regional associations and produces the Ecological Economics journal

    International Society for Ecological Economics

  • Founded by Helena Norberg-Hodge, ISEC has campaigned for the ‘localisation’ of social and economic life. Its biggest project of late has been the production of the film

    The Economics of Happiness

    Local Futures: International Society for Ecology and Culture

  • Situated within the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Population Division website provides access to regularly updated reports and demographic statistics

    UN Population Division

  • This user-friendly sign-up website enables the user to track the supply chains for a designated product. It is a good learning tool, although it needs to be remembered that the information provided is not rigorously tested for accuracy


  • This website aims to help consumers avoid products that have been made by forced child labour or modern-day slavery


  • Formed in 2008 to promote new employment opportunities for people made jobless by the closure of large industries in the city, Evergreen Cooperatives have been responsible for a range of interesting green economy initiatives

    Evergreen Cooperatives

  • A US-based network aimed at promoting research and sharing information on practice in community-based economic development

    Community Wealth

  • A rather small town in the Basque country of Spain is the surprising home of the world’s largest worker co-operative, first formed in 1956

    Mondragon Cooperative Corporation

  • An archive of talks given by the author of Prosperity without Growth, Tim
  • Ongoing work following on from Prosperity without Growth